Skip to main content

Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia in which anyone can write and edit articles. It is often updated very quickly. Because anyone can write or edit an article, information may be incorrect, biased, or out of date. Yet because articles are constantly reviewed and updated, inaccuracies are swiftly identified and corrected.

Interesting note - In 2004, a journalist invited people to add mistakes to the Wikipedia entry on the city of Syracuse to see how long it took to fix. All the mistakes were corrected within hours. While this showed Wikipedia’s self healing abilities, even from deliberate vandalism, for those hours Wikipedia was incorrect. (Criticism of Wikipedia, 2009)

Also, a 2005 report in Nature found that there was little to choose between the accuracy of information in Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica when they compared articles on the same scientific topics. (Giles, 2005)

BulletFreely available.
BulletSome entries can be the most up-to-date available, especially on more esoteric or obscure issues.
BulletThere is a history of discussion on some topics which allows you to see how contributors arrive at particular points of view.
BulletMay have useful references to follow up.

BulletAnyone con contribute, whether an expert or not.
BulletCan be heavily biased.
BulletCan be of substandard quality, subject to misinformation and error.
BulletArticles can be the target of deliberate misrepresentation or "vandalism"

Criticism of Wikipedia. (2009, November 30). Wikipedia.
Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopedias go head to head. Nature, 438, 900-901. doi:10.1038/438900.

Online Encyclopedias

Why use Databasesfrom WKU Libraries?

Why use a library database rather than Google? Databases from WKU Libraries are more likely to provide you with relevant information of a scholarly nature that is appropriate to University level research projects.

Library databases . . .
BulletGenerally contain high-quality information

BulletContain peer-reviewed articles
BulletContain articles by known authors
BulletContain scholarly information
BulletAre subject-specific
BulletSupport refined searching

The free Web . . .
BulletIs not quality controlled
BulletIs rarely peer-reviewed
BulletDoesn't always list authors' names
BulletContains a mixture of specialized and popular (non- specialized) information
BulletHas limited search capabilities